MU football: Herd offense shows production
HUNTINGTON - For Marshall Coach Doc Holliday, quantity leads to quality.
The Thundering Herd snapped the ball 105 times against West Virginia on Saturday. By Holliday's estimation, that's more than 30 percent more snaps than the Herd averaged in 2011, and that means more chances at big plays.
"Last year we averaged 65, maybe 70 snaps," he said. "I'm not sure exactly what it was, but there's an extra 30, 35 snaps a game you have the opportunity to get the ball into playmakers' hands."
Those 105 snaps allowed sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato to find 13 receivers against the Mountaineers. It led to seven ballcarriers. And it led to 545 yards of total offense, the best yardage total by a Conference USA team in the college football's first week.
Holliday has lauded the entire offense's conditioning, but said that's only one factor in the increased production.
"That's a key, but the other thing is the speed of the offense," he said. "We were snapping the ball with 19 to 20 to 25 seconds on the play clock, which is a positive. The other thing is being able to move the chains. You're able to sustain drives and getting first downs allows youu to keep snapping the ball."
Tight end Gator Hoskins, who caught two of Cato's 38 completions for 24 yards, said that with as many people who have the ability to score, this tempo allows as many of them as possible to get a shot.
"We have a lot of playmakers on offense, from the backs to the receivers to the tight ends," he said. "It just gives us a chance for everyone to touch the ball, get more plays and score more points."
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KEVIN GROOMS led the team in rushing despite not carrying the football until the third quarter. Holliday said both Grooms and fellow freshman Steward Butler could see carries earlier versus Western Carolina this Saturday (7 p.m., Fox College Sports).
"I think both those kids have proven they can make a difference, especially in space," he said. "I can see both of those guys playing early. That's the great thing about what we're trying to get done offensively. When you run 105 plays, there's enough snaps to get the ball in those guys' hands."
Grooms and Butler combined for 57 of the Herd's 132 rushing yards against West Virginia, though Grooms accounted for 43 of those yards on five carries.
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Right tackle Garrett Scott, who started the West Virginia game but left with a left leg injury, might be able to return against the Catamounts, Holliday said. Scott left the game on a medical cart in the second quarter, was on crutches with his leg wrapped after the game and was in a boot earlier this week.
"Garrett's probably a little bit wait-and-see, but I think he'll end up playing," Holliday said. "He's not nearly as bad as we thought he was."
Gage Niemeyer moved from left tackle to right tackle to take Scott's place Saturday.
Holliday said Darryl Roberts - who has started 14 games at corner, but sat out of the WVU game after spending time in the preseason wearing a walking boot on his right foot - could be back in two-to-three weeks. He said the same thing about defensive lineman James Rouse, who injured his Achilles in the spring.
Steve Dillon (knee) is 100 percent, Holliday said, but didn't play against WVU because he hadn't practiced in a couple of weeks. Running back Tron Martinez, who led Marshall last year in rushing but is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, is still up in the air as far as returning.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.